Thursday, Dec 18, 2014

Davis eyes safety, economy in District 8 race in St. Pete


Published:   |   Updated: August 10, 2013 at 11:07 PM

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ST. PETERSBURG — Robert Davis got his first taste of public service as president of the Crescent Heights Neighborhood Association, securing a grant to pay for motion-sensor lighting for about 25 homes.

As a union steward for the Florida Services Employees International Union, the 53-year-old library assistant became involved in the St. Petersburg People’s Budget Review, a grass-roots group that lobbies for better services for residents.

“That gave me a sense that I could do something more,” Davis said.

That “something more” is running for the City Council District 8 seat. Davis said he hopes his low-key campaign focusing on public safety and building the economy will resonate with voters.

If elected, he said, he would push for more community policing to address worries about crime that he repeatedly hears from residents when campaigning door to door. That includes concern about drug dealing and prostitution in low-cost motels on 34th Street.

“I see people afraid to open their door,” he said.

He also believes stronger engagement by residents in their neighborhood associations would drive down crime and help revitalize neighborhoods. At a recent candidate forum in North Kenwood, only a handful of people turned up, he said.

Davis said he will push for neighborhood watch groups to work together to be more effective and build closer relationships with the police.

He would restore staff that was cut from the city’s neighborhood partnership office and add more employees to handle code enforcement.

To boost the city’s economy, Davis would like the city to adopt a program used in Brooksville in which federal grant money is used to set up a mobile classroom to provide technical training for adults. He said he also would work with trade unions to create more apprenticeships and vocational training.

“Our focus is on professional degrees, not trade degrees,” he said.

Davis moved to St. Petersburg 15 years ago from St. Louis. He has worked as a library assistant for seven years. He also has worked as a aide for two Iowa state lawmakers.

His involvement in civic life has taught him that the key to solving problems is to get people engaged, he said.

“You take people who are disgruntled and convert them to passionate and energized,” he said.

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